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Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. HIV kills or damages the body's immune system cells. AIDS stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. AIDS is the most advanced stage of infection with HIV.

HIV most often spreads through unprotected sex with an infected person. HIV may also spread by sharing drug needles or through contact with the blood of an infected person. Women can infect their babies with HIV during pregnancy or childbirth.

The first signs of HIV infection may be swollen glands and flu-like symptoms. These symptoms may come and go a month or two after being infected. Severe symptoms may not appear until months or years later.

A blood test can determine if an individual has an HIV infection. An individual's personal health care provider can perform the blood test, or the individuals can call the national referral hotline 24 hours a day at 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636) in English and Spanish (1-888-232-6348).

There is no cure for HIV, but there are many medications available to treat both HIV infection and the infections and cancers that result. Individuals can live with the disease for many years.

Important facts about the spread of HIV/AIDS include:

  • AIDS is presently the sixth leading cause in the United States of individuals among people ages 25 - 44, down from number one in 1995.
  • The World Health Organization estimates that more than 25 million individuals worldwide have died from this infection since the start of the epidemic.
  • In 2008, there were approximately 33.4 million individuals around the world living with HIV/AIDS, including 2.1 million children under age 15.

For more information on ID Care HIV Care programs, please click here.

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